Brad Spangler responds to Stephan Kinsella’s criticism directed toward Spangler’s blog post,”Support ACORN’S Foreclosure Resistance Campaign”.

BradSpangler.com – “Support ACORN’S Foreclosure Resistance Campaign” – 18 Feb 09:

From Infoshop News we learn that:

ACORN is taking a page out of the anarchist playbook, following the example of Boston area anarchists who recently stopped evictions of foreclosed homes, and is starting a campaign of neighborhood resistance to evictions in cities hard-hit by the mortgage crisis. Text messages and phone trees will call volunteers to eviction sites to block Sheriffs from carrying out evictions. This has the potential to begin demonstrating the power people have in determining their own lives, and in recognizing that the only laws we must follow are the ones the system can enforce on us.

This is a case where real property rights don’t agree with property titles as recognized by the state. The banksters are a government-backed cartel whose profits principally accrue from their illegitimate (government granted) monopoly privileges — so claims that the homes in question are property of the banks have no merit in terms of libertarian theory. Resistance to foreclosures is thus fully libertarian. Please support ACORNs foreclosure resistance campaign.

Stephan Kinsella posted “Is Foreclosure Resistance Libertarian?” on the Mises blog, comparing my take on ACORN’s foreclosure resistance campaign to some suspect reasoning by Rand. He starts:

Here we have a left-libertarian hailing the leftist group ACORN’s campaign promoting civil disobedience to resist home foreclosures–that is, they support mortgagees squatting on property owned by the mortgage holder. Argues our left-libertarian: [quotes full 18 Feb 09 post, “Support ACORN’S Foreclosure Resistance Campaign”]

And what about renters? Renting is economically similar to holding a mortgage. Should deadbeat renters be able to squat in their apartments, and tell the evil, capitalistic slumlords “go away, you’re not the real owner”? If not, then I guess banks ought to switch from granting mortgages to just doing lease-to-own contracts.

This seems unduly obtuse of Kinsella on at least two counts.

First, I don’t “support mortgagees squatting on property owned by the mortgage holder” because my argument is that nominal ownership by recipients of mammoth state subsidies is not valid ownership in terms of libertarian theory in the first place. If he wanted to argue that my point was flawed and therefore amounts to de facto support for “mortgagees squatting on property owned by the mortgage holder”, that would be an interesting debate. He never actually does that, though, prefering to instead build his assumptions into his rhetoric like a master illusionist practicing ideological sleight-of-hand.

Secondly, with regard to the following:

And what about renters? Renting is economically similar to holding a mortgage. Should deadbeat renters be able to squat in their apartments, and tell the evil, capitalistic slumlords ‘go away, you’re not the real owner’?

Here, Kinsella seems to want people to incorrectly think the objection is to wealth per se rather than the way wealth is obtained by the political class [.pdf]. My argument is not at all against the principle of property (or its rental), but rather that some (but not all) property titles are illegitimate. He apparently wants to refute someone who denies the legitimacy of all property and its rental and I hope when he finds them he gives them a sound intellectual thrashing. Meanwhile, those of us who wish to defend justly acquired property by promulgating an understanding of why it’s legitimate have a concomitant responsibility to denounce unjustly acquired property held under mere color of law and in defiance of that same understanding of property.

Stephan — Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man all called for you. They want their straw man back.

Kinsella then explains Rand’s somewhat suspect assertion that:

“…the Western oil companies were the ‘real’ owners of the Arabian oil fields…”

…in order to try to then paint that as analogous to my position on ACORN’s foreclosure resistance campaign. In doing so, he trails off into a series of questions that end his post:

Rand basically felt that the Arab states were primitive and “bad”; therefore the good, heroic, individualist Western oil companies are the “true” owners. Likewise, our left-libertarians are arguing that because the banks are illegitimate and have no proper title to homes they hold mortgages on, the current possessor is the “true” owner. Now, no doubt the banksters and Arab states all have unclean hands. But why does the defect in the claims of such actors mean the current possessor of property own it? In the case of homes, why is the renter or mortgagee the “owner”? Why are workers the owner of the factory? Why are the oil companies the owners of the oil fields? After all, when you develop an oil field with the permission of the surface owner, the surface owner retains mineral rights. In the case of a home currently occupied by a deadbeat Democrat or Republican, why is that statist the owner, even if the banks aren’t? Maybe the employed taxpayers are. Maybe the Iraqi citizens with dead family members obliterated by US war supported by typical US homeowners have a better claim to these assets than the possessor has.

The answer to these questions in aggregate (the meta-answer?) is that as a libertarian commenter on these issues I approach them most correctly (in a strategic sense) by doing so in a way prefiguring the libertarian system of justice I seek to build. There very well might be superior claims, to any piece of property, far better than either those of the banksters or the current possessors. The matter is framed in our discourse, though, as a large collection of disputes between two sets of parties. I’ve given my general opinion on whose claims (between those two sets of claimants) I would tend to uphold as an arbitrator and why, pending specifics in any given case that would sway me the other way.

Other odds and ends…

Kinsella:

Nevermind the existence of a contract.

That’s right. Nevermind the existence of a contract, because if systematic favoritism towards one party over another (such as, for one of several possible examples, license to commit fraud — i.e. fractional reserve banking) by the bloodthirsty killing machines we call “states” doesn’t count as something akin to duress or undue influence, nothing ought to.

Commenter, newson:

…to disrespect, or advocate disrespecting valid contracts is to disqualify yourself as a libertarian…

Considering my principal point is that the property claims by the banksters (and, thus, contracts with them) are not ethically valid in the first place, the commenter would seem to be doing a remarkable impression of a puppy by chasing their own intellectual tail.

Commenter John starts off well and maintains for most of his comment:

What Brad Spangler and ACORN’s left-libertarian cheerleaders are saying is, basically, that owing anything to a State-sponsored enterprise, which is basically owing something to the State, is illegitimate and therefore you can absolve that contract on your own and renegue on the contract and take what property you can and pay what you wish for it. That holds some water.

…despite some confusion at the end:

The bank’s employees and other people (maybe real estate company employees) don’t necessarily deserve to get screwed over by your reneging on your contract.

Of paramount concern here is whether “screwed over” is a violation of the bank’s employee’s natural rights or not. If the bank fails as an enterprise because people are somehow successfully defending legit property claims against the illegitimate ones of the bank, would John argue that the economic dislocation the bank employees might suffer justifies ongoing theft from those with a better claim to the property than the banks? John above comes perilously close to falling into the fallacious social-democratic thinking behind the recent government bank bailouts.

Brad Spangler is the director of the Center for a Stateless Society and publishes a blog: BradSpangler.com.

Comments
  1. Stephan Kinsella says:

    NSK had written: “And what about renters? Renting is economically similar to holding a mortgage. Should deadbeat renters be able to squat in their apartments, and tell the evil, capitalistic slumlords “go away, you’re not the real owner”? If not, then I guess banks ought to switch from granting mortgages to just doing lease-to-own contracts.”

    Brad: “with regard to the following:

    ‘And what about renters? Renting is economically similar to holding a mortgage. Should deadbeat renters be able to squat in their apartments, and tell the evil, capitalistic slumlords ‘go away, you’re not the real owner’?’

    “Here, Kinsella seems to want people to incorrectly think the objection is to wealth per se rather than the way wealth is obtained by the political class [.pdf]. My argument is not at all against the principle of property (or its rental), but rather that some (but not all) property titles are illegitimate. He apparently wants to refute someone who denies the legitimacy of all property and its rental and I hope when he finds them he gives them a sound intellectual thrashing.”

    No, Brad, this is not my argument at all. My argument is that your argument is quite obviously flawed, because it would also apply to the case of renting as much as it does to the case of possessing in virtue of a mortgage–and to many other contracts as well. I’m arguing that your argument, if applied consistently, would lead to total chaos and the abolition of all property. It would reduce all to possession; yet, the distinction between mere possession, and ownership, is a central tenet of libertarianism. I’m trying to demonstrate that there is something wrong with your not-well-thought-out implicit theory, since it would also extent to many other situations where the result would be obviously unjust.

    “Kinsella:

    ‘Nevermind the existence of a contract.’

    “That’s right. Nevermind the existence of a contract, because if systematic favoritism towards one party over another (such as, for one of several possible examples, license to commit fraud — i.e. fractional reserve banking) by the bloodthirsty killing machines we call “states” doesn’t count as something akin to duress or undue influence, nothing ought to.”

    In other words, there are no rights; it’s anything goes; mere possession is all that counts, and it’s equal to rights; might = right; and so on. Nice. Not libertarian, IMO.

    “Considering my principal point is that the property claims by the banksters (and, thus, contracts with them) are not ethically valid in the first place,”

    what exactly is your argument for classifing ALL banks as criminal?

  2. re: “No, Brad, this is not my argument at all.”

    I didn’t address the rental argument directly because it was phrased in such a way as to obfuscate an aspect of what I originally said that, in turn, makes Kinsella’s rental argument irrelevant and needing no refutation.

    Specifically, where he said:

    “Should deadbeat renters be able to squat in their apartments, and tell the evil, capitalistic slumlords ‘go away, you’re not the real owner’”

    …he was expanding the set of people under discussion from:

    1) mortgagees [or renters] occupying property held under illegitimate title by state-allied institutions

    -to-

    2) a much broader set of people — mortgagees [or renters], generally”.

    I take it Kinsella is well-accustomed to parsing text and knew exactly what he was doing when he chose to embrace deceptive rhetoric — and it’s apparently because he can’t refute my actual argument.

    I’ve not argued against mortgages or leasing out of property. I’m arguing against illegitimately held title (in either a mortgage or lease situation) by recipients of systematic and massive state subsidies and state-granted privileges that make them a de facto part of the state and similarly unable to legitimately hold property.

    The similarity of mortgages and leasing os irrelevant to the question of whether the PARTICULAR mortgage holder or leasor can legitimately hold property in the first place. Expanding the set of people under discussion to ALL mortgage holders or ALL leasors is purely an act of outright obfuscation on Kinsella’s part. He apparently wants to pretend I’m arguing against mortgages or leasing when what I’m saying is that this particular set of state allied institutions can’t legitimately hold title to property and thus can’t be a legitimate mortgage-holder or leasor.

    Pointing out the obvious but irrelevant (the similarity of mortgages to leasing) and saying “Ah HA! I have you NOW!” is not something that needs any refutation. Kinsella’s rental argument is a red herring, and I’m relatively confident he knows this.

    re: “what exactly is your argument for classifing ALL banks as criminal?”

    What’s your rationale for (apparently) not having one of your own, Stephan?

  3. BTW, it occurs to me that I should add that there is a secondary, deeper level of obfuscation that Kinsella introduces with his rental argument.

    I am not arguing against mortgages or leases but against title illegitimately held by state-allied institutions. While a mortgage and a lease are similar in exactly the way Kinsella points out, the present day mortgage *industry* is today very different in terms of composition from the set of all leasors in the here and now. Specifically, there are few titles legitimately held by mortgage-holders, but plenty of leasors are legitimate owners. This is because leasors are not typically banks, but mortgage-holders typically are.

  4. Correction: I said “mortgagee” above multiple times where I should have said “mortgagor”. Pardon the error.

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/mortgagee
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/mortgagor

  5. After thinking about this a bit more, it occurs to me to ALSO add that Kinsella is weaseling here:

    “My argument is that your argument is quite obviously flawed, because it would also apply to the case of renting as much as it does to the case of possessing in virtue of a mortgage–and to many other contracts as well. I’m arguing that your argument, if applied consistently, would lead to total chaos and the abolition of all property.”

    …because what he originally said, before he changed to the above tack, was this:

    “And what about renters? Renting is economically similar to holding a mortgage. Should deadbeat renters be able to squat in their apartments, and tell the evil, capitalistic slumlords “go away, you’re not the real owner”? If not, then I guess banks ought to switch from granting mortgages to just doing lease-to-own contracts.”

    Kinsella framed his original statement as a false dichotomy. I could *either* call for the nullification of all property titles or endorse inconsistent treatment of leasing versus mortgages. In actuality I had not, nor will do, either. A deadbeat is someone who does not pay what they owe. Yet the crux of what I said was that banks are not legitimate owners and thus one doesn’t actually “owe” them anything in terms of libertarian theory. Confronted with the observation that this was a straw man argument on his part, he NOW switches to claiming that nullification of ALL property titles would be a *consequence* of nullifying SOME of them. This is not the same argument, and furthermore it’s not true.

  6. […] post on foreclosure resistance have been republished together on Little Alex in Wonderland. Stephan Kinsella commented and I posted some responses in comments. Share […]

  7. Stephan Kinsella says:

    Brad, this all seems kinda weak to me, sorry. Argument FAIL.

  8. Er, no Stephen, YOU fail. Why don’t you answer Brad’s substantive arguments? Do you care about truth or are you just a disingenuous twat?

  9. Mike says:

    “Brad, this all seems kinda weak to me, sorry. Argument FAIL.”

    Well, you can’t argue with that!

  10. Jeremy says:

    What is happening is that Kinsella is conflating the agorist approach with the mutualist approach. He just throws us all under the “left libertarian” moniker, where he then has a bunch of pre-fabricated retorts. This allows Kinsella to dismiss Spangler as anti-property when he’s anything but. He needs to understand the people he is arguing against, instead of reflexive hostility.

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